Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Democratic Republic of New Texas

RE: Oil Workers Mount Protest in Basra

----------------- Bulletin Message -----------------
From: Patriots Speak Out ®©™
Date: Jul 16, 2007 10:46 PM

Oil Workers Mount Protest in Basra

Union Protests Oil Law, Government Increase on Fuel Prices
Posted 5 hr. 47 min. ago

Essam al-Sudani/AFP/Getty
Basra, IRAQ: Iraqis shout slogans as they demonstrate in the southern city of Basra, 16 July 2007.

Basra, Jul 16, (VOI) – The executive bureau of Basra's trade unions organized a large demonstration on Monday, where hundreds of workers called for reconsidering the oil and gas law and the government's recent decision to increase fuel prices.

"Members of all Basra's trade unions took to the streets to show solidarity with the oil trade union, calling for reconsidering the oil and gas law and the government decision to increase fuel prices," the head of the bureau, Hussein Fadel, told the independent news agency Voices of Iraq (VOI).

The executive bureau issued a statement last week calling for the removal of the oil minister, freedom of syndicates to organize their administrations and activities and the cancellation of decision no. 150, which bans syndicates' activities in public sector institutions.

"The demonstration reflected the unity of Basra's trade unions. The ports, electricity, services, municipalities and other trade unions all united to call for the legitimate demands of the oil trade union's workers," he added.

A media spokesman for Basra's trade unions, Faraj Ribat Mazban, told VOI that the demonstrators were protesting against the oil and gas law, which he said allows foreign companies to exploit Iraq's wealth.

The law on oil and gas is one of the most controversial laws on the Iraqi political scene. It was recently ratified by the Iraqi cabinet after a number of Shura Council amendments were made to it, described by the government as "peripheral." The law was referred to the parliament for approval and is currently under discussion. The current draft gives foreign investors the right to set up refineries and oil facilities and to invest in them for 50 years, after which they will belong to the Iraqi government.

Mazban added that the demonstrators were also angry at being unheard. Representatives from the syndicate of trade unions met several officials, including the prime minister and the oil minister, "but all they gave were empty promises," he indicated.

The Iraqi Oil Ministry said earlier that starting July 1, 2007, premium gas will be sold at 450 Iraqi dinars per liter (36 U.S. cents) and regular gas for 400 dinars (32 U.S. cents), attributing the price increase to pressure from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and Paris Club to remove subsidies on oil derivatives.

Basra, a Shiite province with 20% Sunni population, is 590 km south of Baghdad.

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